Signs From My Father

Leaving me dimes and sending me cardinals

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Growing up my sisters and I heard about and saw pictures of our parents at the El Rancho Motel in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.  They went there on their honeymoon and went again with my dad’s sister Helen and her husband Ticker.  They loved it there, and we loved looking at the pictures over and over again.

It’s no longer there but a search on the internet had this to say: “The sprawling grounds included 75 air-conditioned rooms with over 250-person capacity, car shelters, outdoor grilles and room service, a meeting room, and an adjoining restaurant. The palms and pines-wooded lot also included an 18-hole putting green, shuffleboard, ping pong, and their distinctive illuminated swimming pool, measuring 90′ x 40′, with a small island in the middle with palm trees.”  From that description I know why they loved it – heck I would too!

Last year and a few week ago, my husband and I spent a week in Surfside Beach, South Carolina which is just one town south of Myrtle Beach.

My mind was on planning and packing all the week before we left and we were doing a lot of weather watching and worrying whether we’d have sun or a week of rain.  It was evident my father wanted me to know he was thinking about our trip too when I reached my hand up in the shower to get the soap – and put my hand on a dime!  In the shower!  Boy that was weird….

We broke the trip down there into two days this time so we wouldn’t be burnt out and  stopped in La Plata MD which is about halfway.  It was a Best Western and I have a membership card.  I stuck my hand in my pocketbook to get my card holder and came up with a dime STUCK to my card holder! IMG_3580

I said “Daddy you are tricky! I know you’re with us!”

Once we got there we spent a lot of time on the balcony of the condo where we were on the 3rd floor.  It was relaxing looking at the water or just listening to the sound while reading our books.  While sitting there one day I heard a very familiar bird sound…..IMG_2997

Sure enough – there’s a cardinal sitting  there saying hello.   He showed himself during the week and finally, on the last day of our visit while I was sitting on the couch, I looking up and he was was fluttering around at our balcony rail!  He sat for a second and then flew off.

I can hear my father saying “That was a good time Nanc – I’m glad you had fun”.

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Jakiela in World War I

Proud to fight for his adopted country

My grandfather, Charles Jakiela immigrated to the United States from Lubatowa Poland in 1905.  He was married with two children when the time came in June of 1917 to register for the draft.

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Although he could have, he chose not to claim an exemption and left his wife, Antonia and two sons – Steven, 4 years old and Edward, 2 – behind in Southington Connecticut when he headed to Camp Devens in Ayer Massachusetts.  When asked why he enlisted when he could have been exempt he said it was because “he loved his country”.

The construction of Fort Devens started in early June, 1917, and was performed by a labor force of 5,000 workers which in just 10 weeks built a small city consisting of 1400 buildings, 20 miles of road, 400 miles of electric wiring and 60 miles of heating pipes in addition to water and sewer service. Due to the speed of its development, Camp Devens formally opened at the beginning of September, 1917. It was the first of 16 National Army cantonments to be completed in the country, processing and training more than 100,000 soldiers of the 76th and 12th Divisions from 1917-1919. (from http://www.worldwar1letters.wordpress.com). It was here at Camp Devens that Charles became a United States Citizen.

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Fun fact – 31 Liberty Street in Southington listed on the Certificate is the same location that cousin Steve Jakiela had his deli and catering business – Liberty Deli!

Based on his headstone, I knew that he was in Battery C 302nd F.A. (field artillary).  I really didn’t give it much thought until I saw Bill O’Reilly on an episode of Finding Your Roots and the host, Henry Gates, talked to him about his grandfather who was in the a division of the army out of New York and they talked about how he fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offense in October-November of 1918.  Something just made me start looking again because I knew there had to be more information for Charles’s service.

I found out that the 302nd field artillary regiment was part of the 151st Field Artillery, which was part of the 76th Division, which was part of the 5th Army Corps commanded by Major General Omar Bundy.  The 302nd field artillary regiment were trained with the 4.7″ artillery guns.  I also found the following online:

Seventy-Sixth Division (National Army)

Known as the “Liberty Bell Division.” Insignia is a blue liberty bell superimposed on a khaki square. Organized at Camp Devens, Mass., in Sept., .1917. The division was composed of National Army drafts from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The first units embarked for overseas on July 5, 1918, and the last units arrived in France on July 31, 1918. Upon arrival in France the division was designated as a depot division and ordered to the St. Aignan area. Here the division was broken up, training cadres were formed and the personnel used as replacements for combat divisions at the front. The special units, such as the Signal Battalion and Sanitary Troops, were sent forward as corps and army troops.

Commanding generals: Maj.Gen. H. F. Hodges,. Aug. 25 to Nov. 27, 1917; Brig. Gen. Wm. Wiegel, Nov. 27, 1917 to Feb. 13, 1918; Maj. Gen. H. F. Hodges, Feb.13 to Nov. 11,1918.

This division was composed of the following organizations: 15ast and 152nd Inf. Brigs.; 301st, 302nd, 303rd, 304th Inf. Regts.; 301st, 302d, 303d Machine Gun Bns.; 301st, 302d, 303d Fld. Arty. Regts.; 301st Trench Mortar Battery; 301st Engr. Regt. and Train; 301st Fld. Sig. Bn.; 301st Hqs. Train and M. P.; 301st Amm. Train; 301st Supply Train; 301st Sanitary Train (301st, 302d, 303d and 304th Field Hospitals and Amb. Cos.).

I also found somewhere else (really should have written websites down!) that the 302d and 303d FA Regiments were in the St. Mihiel Sector from 11/2-11/11/18.

He survived his time in France, although I’m told he was heavily gassed, only to have disaster strike on the way home.  According to both Auntie Helen and Uncle Eddie, on the way out of France (England?-It was never said where), as the train the troops were on went over a trestle, a previously unexploded bomb exploded!  Charles landed in a brook and his head was smashed.  Auntie Helen said he had a scar from the front of his head down the back.  A man from Bristol saved him.  Once they arrived home, every Saturday night “four guys on motorcycles” came to their South Center Street home in Southington to visit.  Auntie Helen said he received a pension because of his injury and he would routinely write letters to the government because they wanted to cut his pension!

In 2002, I requested and received a Certification of Military Service for Charles which told me he was in the Army from October 4 of 1917 to April 30, 1919.  Unfortunately, in 1973, there was a fire in the area that destroyed a major portion of records for Army military personnel from 1912 through 1959.

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He died at age 45 when Steve the oldest was 23 and John the youngest was turning 11.  But that’s a story for another time.  He’s buried in St. John’s cemetery.  If you go in the lower driveway to the end and the road curves to the left, he’s at the top of the hill on the right.  John always made sure there was an American flag by his headstone.  I think I will see that there always is.

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Easter Through The Years

Remembering the traditions passed down through generations.

Easter memories include:

  • Church on Easter Sunday morning in our finest Spring clothes – usually freezing because it wasn’t quite as warm as the outfits were designed for!;
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Jakiela Girls Easter 1964
  • Easter baskets with candy!;
  • Brunch after mass either at 121 Clifton Street or our house, Aunt Judy’s or Auntie Irene’s that would be eaten in shifts as families came and went…and usually involved a second round of food;
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Betty at Easter
  • Pierogies, stuffed cabbage, hungarian cookies, kielbasa, ham, horseradish, hard rolls, rye bread with seeds, babka – my mouth is watering!;
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Gram at Easter
  • One Easter in the 1970s that was so warm and it was conveniently at Aunt Judy’s down the street that we came back to our house, got our bathing suits on and laid out in the sun!;
  • An Easter Sunday that fell on Gail’s and my birthday and we got to carry the gifts to the alter;
  • Our first Easter without Mommy and it was at the Behme’s house and Judy had a birthday cake for Gail and me because our birthday was a week or so later;
  • Celebrating Easter with Cody, coloring eggs and going to Easter egg hunts (and I wasn’t knocking kids down to get candy for him!);
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Cody and Wyatt 1993
  • Easter at cousin Joan’s house with all the kids hunting for the Golden Egg and having the Easter Bunny appear!;
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Easter at Joan Jakiela’s 1997
  • Our first Easter without Daddy after he passed away on Palm Sunday in 2010 and Gail’s description of him entering the gates of heaven and everyone cheering for his arrival;
  • The traditions we continue with our families and pass down to our children that we hope they will continue when we are no longer with them.

Antonina Liro Jakiela

1891-1927

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Happy Birthday Antonina Liro Jakiela – my paternal grandmother born on this day January 10, 1891.  She was born in Wielepole, Podkarpackie, Poland, daughter of Wojiech Liro and Mary Zahara Liro.  She had an older sister Aniela born in 1871 and a brother Bronislaw born in 1881 so it appears she was the baby of the family.  Various records show her name as Antonina, Antonia and Antoinette but I’ll stick with Antonina since that’s what her ship passage record says.

She arrived in New York on September 12, 1902 and headed up to Thorndike Massachusetts where her sister Aniela and brother in law Josef Mikula lived and worked in the fabric mills.  They had been in the United States for a few years already and Josef paid her passage according to the ship records.

She met her husband Charles Jakiela working in the mills and they were married on June 24, 1912 in Palmer Massachusetts.  This is one of two pictures that exists for Antonina and Charles and it’s on their wedding day.  It looks like something from the carnival that you put your heads into because her arms are unnaturally long and bendy for being 4’9″ tall!  Nevertheless, it’s a treasure.

Their first son, Steven came along less than a year later in May of 1913, followed by Edward in November of 1915.  There’s a five year gap in children due to Charles heading off to World War 1 but they picked right back up with Helen in March of 1920, Walter in November of 1921 and John in June of 1924.

By the birth of Helen in 1920, they were living in Southington Connecticut.

I interviewed my Uncle Eddie one Sunday afternoon (he used to drive through the neighborhood and one day I flagged him down and invited him in) and asked him about the family.  These are some things he had to say:

“mom was a nice dresser – not dumpy, frumpy Polak”
“she was very short, black black hair, alot of gold teeth and father would get mad as hell at her for spending a lot of money on clothes”
“she had a fur jacket! A Jewish guy from Hartford would come with clothes for her to buy and she’d pay him once a week”

Sadly on April 1, 1927 while pregnant with her 6th child, Antonina began hemorrhaging and was taken to the hospital.  Uncle Eddie recalls: “she asked me to stay home that day so I did.  A half hour later she was screaming for me to get my father and run and get the midwife on Water Street.”  If I remember correctly he said his father came home from the hospital and said they would see her in the morning but in the morning the hospital called for them on the neighborhood store telephone to say she died at 3am.

Their father was heartbroken.  She is buried in St. Thomas cemetery in Southington CT.  Charles made a cross out of wood and carved a heart along with her name and date of birth and date of death on it.  Years later Eddie had a headstone made for her at which time the wooden cross disappeared.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to have a reading by a medium.  I was so impressed I went back again armed with questions.  When I asked about Antonina, Phil’s immediate response was “she’s beautiful”.  I wish I got the chance to know her.  Rest in Peace Antonina Liro Jakiela.

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